Dale Chats about His and Brad’s Big Bathroom Win

Dani Wales
Monday 17 February 2014

Bathroom week on The Block is one of the hardest weeks in the competition’s already tough schedule. Not only do you have seven days to complete a wet room but it’s also one of the only rooms (apart from the kitchen) that requires tradesman from almost every field at some point of the week; all working on top of each other.

It’s a refined process and if one part of that process breaks down the knock-on effect will result in issues for the remainder of the week. The worst-case scenario is the delivery of an unfinished room.

Apart from a few design and layout issues at the start of the week; Brad and Dale seemed to have a pretty smooth ride, which resulted in them serving an almost faultless bathroom to the judging panel on Sunday night. They won the bathroom and beat the twins, who came in second, by a whopping six points. I caught up with Dale and talked with him about the winning room, the competition and their target market on auction day.

I don’t always agree with the judges’ picks each week, but you guys were easily the winners for me – I absolutely loved your bathroom. Can you tell me about the setbacks you had at the start of the week? 
For starters the main issue was that we just planned our room based on what we had in front of us upstairs on that floor. But obviously, being a build that affected by each of the levels each week because you’re starting from scratch; we hadn’t taken into account where the big steel support beams underneath the room were. Once we started marking out where our toilet, shower and vanity would go and once we put the holes on the floor then transferred them underneath to do the core holes, there was bloody steel everywhere so we had to just keep changing it around.

The plans were pretty interesting actually; they had a few things missing here and there. The beams weren’t on them so once we figured out where they were, we were able draw our proper plans up for the layout.

Brad mentioned earlier in the week that he felt the final design was too ‘stock-standard.’ Did it worry you also that your final layout wouldn’t go down well with the judges?
Nah, nup! I think Brad worries every week about the rooms [laughs]. We knew that we had what was needed in a bathroom and the only thing you have to do then is to dress that up somehow and make those essential things look really good. So the way we tried to do that was to pick a really nice tile and run it from the floor to the ceiling, and because the ceilings in there are 3.6 meters tall, that gave us that really cool look anyway.
We also ditched the top of the vanity unit we got from Reece and then replaced it with a piece of recycled timber. So I think with those few things it was enough to make the room a unique bathroom rather than something that is replicated everywhere.

With the setbacks in mind and your resulting bathroom, is there anything you would change about it if you had your time over?
Nah, I think the bathroom turned out better than we expected in the end. Looking at it now that it’s finished, I don’t think we’d change a thing in there.
The only things we cut back on were a couple of little things – with the tap fittings and things like that, we would have loved to have used some of those really cool black ones like Kyal and Kara had the luxury of using but they were the sort of sacrifices we made just to keep on budget. In the end it all looked really great anyway.

You mentioned the recycled timber top on the vanity, which I really loved – would you say that was your favourite element in the room?
The recycled timber top for the vanity was probably the element I liked the most because I’m a pretty earthy person. Having a natural piece of timber in the bathroom was right up my alley. It was just enough to soften it and to keep it sort of warm.

Moving the Laundry out of the bathroom to maximize the space seemed the logical move, was that the main reason?
Yeah, exactly right. That was the main reason we did that. Judges never seem to like laundries; I don’t think I’ve ever heard a comment from a judge in any series where they said ‘this is a great laundry’. We just thought, ‘let’s just get it out of this room and make this room unreal and then we’ll put a laundry somewhere else where it’s functional and it works’, but as far as judging, we didn’t care if they commented on it just as long as they noted there was one put in. The laundry itself is in the hallway. I think it’s a pretty good spot for it because you’re not chucking your dirty clothes into a guest bathroom when you go to do stuff. It’s got its own space. We put a basin in there and a workbench, so you have the lot in there.

And where, in terms of the floor plan, is it now?
It sits in the hallway at the back of the walk-in room of the guest bedroom, which we have already delivered.

Can you offer any advice to readers on how to perfect the layout of a bathroom?
Bathrooms are all about having your essential things but you want to create the feeling that you’re not poking around in there. The bigger you can make the room feel the better; whether that’s by increasing the height of the ceiling or reducing the size of a vanity unit or something like that just to get a bigger space around it. Some people like to just put in a ‘his and hers’ basin on a really long vanity top just for the sake of having it, but often you can probably get away with just having the one and then your bathroom feels a heap bigger. You’ve just got to be smart with it, make sure the proportions are right and pick the right size products for the room that you’ve got.

The judges commented that you had ‘great proportions’, were the proportions and scale of the room something you made a real effort to consider in your initial planning?
Yes it was definitely considered. That’s why we decided to get rid of the laundry; because we wanted to play with the space a lot more and make it feel as if it was bigger. That room is basically the main bathroom as it’s the only bathroom for downstairs. Even though there are bathrooms upstairs for the people that live there, we still wanted the bathroom downstairs to be something that guests (even if they’re only there for dinner) go ‘oh this is really nice’. Because of the fact that we made that first bedroom really big (it’s basically the size of a master bedroom), we thought we better match it with a bathroom to suit which was also pretty big and grand.

How did you go about locking down a style and look for the apartment?
We took on board the comments or ‘brief’ from the judges that the building would be perfect for a ‘Manhattan-Style Loft’ and then did a bit of research. We kept coming up with the same semi-industrial but softened type look room, so there were bits of steel in there but there was also nice timbers and beautiful curtains and stuff like that. I think we both just sort of wanted to go as minimalistic and as simple as we possibly could whilst making it look really cool. We are both veterans now, and the houses that have always sold well in The Block (as you know) are the ones that have been nicely put together and delivered but they haven’t got too much of somebody’s specific style in there.
We basically wanted to concentrate on the build and make sure all the bulkheads, room sizes and layout were perfect and then paint the walls white, and then fix it up with a few little things that made the room look nice but that weren’t too ‘in-your-face’. I think that is the stuff that sells on auction day

Whereas, interestingly, this year Alisa and Lysandra seem to have gone completely the opposite way: they want to put out what their styling is like because they say they didn’t do that as much in their first series on Sky High. So they are trying heaps of things this time around which might be very polarising to some of the market. So hopefully we will benefit from having a well-delivered, fairly simple house.

Alisa and Lysandra have labeled you guys as the ones to watch, and their biggest competition. Is the feeling mutual or are you trying not to buy into any of that and just concentrate on what you’re doing?
It was really hard as we could see into each others apartments each week as the building is very open. So you knew basically exactly what everyone is doing each week and the girls are very paranoid about all that stuff. They want their secrets, but we honestly couldn’t care less about what everyone else is doing: we just want to worry about our place. We are only selling one place on auction day, not all four of them. As soon as you get on with the build during the week, there is no time to change anything you’re doing anyway. We just try to come up with our own good ideas and run with it. But the girls are definitely big competition, especially on auction day. But everyone’s apartments are so different in every aspect that hopefully we all have some buyers that are from different markets.

Have you tried to appeal to the majority of buyers, or have you singled-out a bit of a target market? 
No, we just wanted to keep the market as open as possible. I know that just the style of apartment will eliminate a few buyers. Elderly people probably aren’t going to want to be walking up and down stairs all day.
We are probably looking for a younger, wealthy professional type of buyer, but a lot of the time they just sell to investors who rent them out. I think as long as you’re making it livable and functional, you’re doing all right. We basically tried to not polarise any one of the buying market.

What’s your strategy with judges’ feedback this year, are you taking it in and applying it where necessary, or just going with your gut?
We definitely just go with our guts. We took the good with the bad with the judges’ comments and we ignored the lot [laughs]. Even if they said it was the best room ever, we sort of thought that we knew it was a good room so we were happy with that but even if they said that it wasn’t to their liking then we just sort of ignored that as well and I think come auction day we will prove them all wrong [laughs].
Obviously there are a few things that the judges were definitely right about and hopefully we’ll get an opportunity to correct them later in the series. They definitely do have valid points at times but it’s not all about the styling when you’re selling a place and that’s the thing that maybe the judges might forget sometimes.

Will the $10k in prize money go straight to your tradie bills or are you planning something special?
Nope we definitely have something special that we were um’ing and ah’ing about if we could afford or not, so that money will go straight towards that.

This week seemed like a shocker for the new guys who all showed signs of cracking under the pressure, how’s your friendship with Brad coping at this stage? You seem like you’re having loads of fun and trying not to take things too seriously.
Bathroom weeks are always a bit of a shocker and if you lose a day it literally costs you about three so when you’re trying to get a bathroom done on block time and have only seven days to complete a wet area, it’s nearly impossible – even though we always seem to get it done. Brad and I kind of enjoyed bathroom week as it’s all about sticking to a process and if you get everything done in order, then it works. Because we’ve done about six or seven The Block bathrooms between us, we have done enough to know the order of things and that was probably enough to keep our heads above water this week. The screed problem that the two fan teams had was enough to set both those poor buggers back a couple of days, which was a nightmare.

Brad and I are happy to have a laugh when we can and we try to keep the mood of the others up if they’re having a crap time. If we can take ten minutes out of every night and get everyone around and have a drink or a bit of pizza and have a laugh about something then it get’s everyone through.

This week we are back in the bedroom, as the couples head upstairs and work to complete their second Guest Bedroom.

Shop the look for Brad and Dale's winning bathroom

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Brad and Dales winning week two bathroom

Brad and Dales winning week two bathroom

Brad and Dales winning week two bathroom